The year 1911 was a milestone for the avant-garde German Expressionist group Die Brucke (The Bridge). That autumn, its three key artists — Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff — moved to Berlin from Dresden, where they had worked since 1905. The pulsating vitality of this modern city was immediately reflected in their paintings and prints. In Two Women, Kirchner depicted a pair of seamstresses on a Berlin street. The figure on the right resembles his friend Dodo ( Doris ) Grosse, who frequently modeled for the artist. Characteristic of Kirchner's work of this period, this painting is executed in strong colors and jagged lines, showing the awareness of Fauve as well as African and Oceanic art. He presents his two female subjects forcefully and directly and makes no attempt to beautify them; rather, he gives them lurid yellow complexions set off by rich black garments. This depiction remains less aggressive, however, than the many images Kirchner painted of hard-bitten and overtly sexualized young women on city streets, which reveal even more ambivalence toward modern urban life. Kirchner resumed work on Two Women in the early 1920s in Davos, Switzerland, where he moved in 1918 following a war-induced nervous collapse. At this time, he heightened the contrast between various dark and light passages in the painting — for example, between the women's coats and the decorative cloth backdrop. On the reverse of Two Women is Kirchner's Indian Dancer in Yellow Skirt (1911), a seductive, barefoot dancer in exotic dress that reveals an interest in "primitive" or non-Western subjects that Kirchner shared with other Die Brucke artists.
- Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
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